Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

By Kai-Arne Zimny

[Author’s note: This review is spoil­er free.] 

A year has passed since the events of The Last Jedi (2017). Kylo Ren (Adam Dri­ver) is Supreme Leader of the evil galac­tic regime called The First Order and still strange­ly drawn and con­nect­ed to his ene­my, the last Jedi and resis­tance fight­er Rey (Daisy Rid­ley). But not every­thing is as it seems, and we soon real­ize who’s been pulling the strings all along.

The Rise of Sky­walk­er doesn’t spend much time on an intro­duc­tion, so I won’t either. The movie lasts 142 min­utes and goes by in a heart­beat as the char­ac­ters rush from one visu­al­ly impres­sive quest to anoth­er. They meet new char­ac­ters along the way, some known from the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy, oth­ers com­plete­ly new to the cast. Also, we get lots of typ­i­cal Star Wars moments, some ooz­ing with nos­tal­gia. Too often, the mak­ers of Star Wars ran­dom­ly cram icon­ic objects or char­ac­ters onto the screen, obvi­ous­ly count­ing on the extreme devo­tion fans have for the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy. Done with tact and instinct – done in the Jedi way, that is – this could be pow­er­ful. But I’m afraid they (over-)did it.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many plot­lines feel just as crammed. Our band of heroes spends the first half of the film quite lit­er­al­ly plan­et-hop­ping for one McGuf­fin after anoth­er. The pac­ing of this movie is insane – some­times it feels like two or three movies in one. What a shame! But no time for that, move along, move along! Although The Rise of Sky­walk­er is nev­er bor­ing and def­i­nite­ly fun on a super­fi­cial (and visu­al) lev­el, the over-the-top action feels strange­ly void and gener­ic. Also, the roller­coast­er speed of this film pre­vents view­ers from dwelling on scenes or pon­der­ing actions.

After revis­it­ing the film in my mind, I noticed some plot holes, out-of-char­ac­ter actions, and events that sim­ply made lit­tle to no sense. Grant­ed, no one expects a slow and calm char­ac­ter study in a Star Wars movie. After all, the films of this forty-some­thing year-old fran­chise are known and cher­ished for being flashy space adven­tures that go well with a bag of pop­corn. How­ev­er, the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy nev­er resorts to a mind­less ‘the more, the bet­ter’ for­mu­la, but actu­al­ly makes the audi­ence think and feel. The actors most­ly do a fair job and have poten­tial. But that’s the tragedy: After fol­low­ing the char­ac­ters for three movies and rough­ly sev­en hours, I wish the movie mak­ers had cut point­less plot­lines, reduced the action, and left more space for sto­ry and char­ac­ters to devel­op organ­i­cal­ly. Take, for instance, Emper­or Pal­pa­tine (Ian McDiarmid).

“The dead speak!” are the film’s open­ing words. Well, this doesn’t come as a sur­prise since movie posters and trail­ers already revealed that the Emper­or, who we thought had died in the finale of the orig­i­nal Star Wars tril­o­gy, would be back in this movie. While it was cer­tain­ly spe­cial to see McDi­armid as the icon­i­cal­ly evil and manip­u­la­tive vil­lain again, the choice to bring him back against all log­ic and rea­son and with­out neces­si­ty or prop­er expla­na­tion smacks of cre­ative despair.

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Mak­ing a Star Wars movie must be awe­some to stel­lar pro­por­tions, but all that aside, I don’t envy any­one involved in the cre­ation of a new chap­ter of the saga. The fans aren’t your typ­i­cal audi­ence either, but more like co-own­ers and co-cre­ators of the fran­chise. Not few of them have grown up with it, and there’s no lim­it to the lev­el of knowl­edge some fans have gath­ered from all cor­ners of the Star Wars uni­verse; some trans­late that into fan-fic­tion, and a lucky few of those have even become offi­cial Star Wars authors, pub­lish­ing canon­i­cal Star Wars nov­els. Well, my hard­core-fan-lev­el is prob­a­bly low­er than that of those peo­ple, but I am a Star Wars fan, no ques­tion about it. Thanks to the sequel tril­o­gy, I know the feel­ing of hop­ing the mak­ers of a new episode will get it right and return that sto­ry unharmed. The pres­sure is high, and it must’ve been immense for this final chap­ter of the tril­o­gy. As if that wasn’t enough, two years ago the pre­vi­ous episode, The Last Jedi, tore the audi­ence asun­der; the moment of the icon­ic Sky­walk­er lightsaber hilt break­ing into two parts seems odd­ly sym­bol­ic for that movie now. Well, from the very start of The Rise of Sky­walk­er, that same lightsaber hilt is back in one piece again. And it’s obvi­ous that this movie’s main objec­tive was to fix some­thing that was already bro­ken. Well, it didn’t quite accom­plish that.

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